Last April Jo Fletcher Books published the last book, Spira Mirabilis, in Aidan Harte’s The Wave series and published the first one, Irenicon, in the US. The Wave is a series which I’ve heard much praise for, but unfortunately haven’t (yet) read myself, though I do have Irenicon on my TBR-pile. However, having heard so much good things about the series, and being curious about Aidan’s dual career as a sculptor and a writer, I asked Aidan for an Author Query. He sent me back some awesome answers. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
Let’s start with the basics. Who is Aidan Harte?
I’m an Irish writer. Irenicon is my first book so I’m delighted that it’s coming to America. Previously, I worked in animation. I created and directed Skunk Fu which was on BBC and Cartoon Network a few years ago.
How would you introduce readers to The Wave series?
With great difficulty…
You pretty much nail it in your question below when you call it a “medieval martial arts epic.”
The Wave begins as a story of Sofia, the putative Contessa of a small town called Rasenna that has a gift for fighting. Later the scope widens but this focus on factionalism remains no matter where the story goes. Living in Italy, you see traces everywhere of the factionalism of medieval city states. When an angry mob came knocking, they knew your party by the type of merlon on the roof of your fortified town house. The most tragic thing in divided communities is that they inevitably start doing their enemy’s work by searching for scapegoats within their walls.
The Wave is named after the terrible weapon that divides Rasenna and has a horribly lingering afterlife. This scenario stems from my idea that the true horror of the Atomic Age is not the capacity for sudden destruction – we’ve lived with horrific bombs for a long time – but that these weapons waiting so impatiently in their silos can kill and kill again, spreading successive waves of death for months and years afterwards. I wanted to cast that shadow on a medieval world on the cusp of renaissance and see what unfolded.
I warn readers that the Christianity practiced in Etruria, my version of Italy, is less familiar than it seems initially. Reviewers have fixated on this central What If (Jesus is killed at birth than on the Cross) but in Irenicon it’s essentially a way to puncture notions of historical inevitability. The full repercussions of destiny’s derailment are revealed in the next two books.
You’re not just a writer, you’re also a sculptor. How does your love of visual art bleed into your writing?
Telling stories with words or clay are different things but the discipline – make it, fix it and fix it some more – is the same.
Sculpture is a more austere discipline than, for example, painting because symbolic props are just distractions. A great sculpture conveys personality by its physicality. Great literary characters like Ahab have that same presence. Writers often get so immersed in the subtleties of their characters’ interior lives that they forget that characters interact as flesh and blood.
Staying with the topic of sculpting: Michelangelo is often quoted as having said: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” That sounds like the sculptor’s equivalent of a pantser versus a plotter to me. Which are you and do you find the process works the same whether sculpting or writing or do they differ?
Michelangelo’s genius extended to self-mythologizing. He did extensive drawing studies and preliminary clay sketches (though few survive) before he picked up the chisel. The only thing the Italians like better than making beautiful things is making it look effortless. Don’t fall for it. They sweat like everyone else. Degas was more honest when he said that the execution of a work of art “calls for as much cunning as the commission of a crime.”
So, yeah, Guilty: I’m a plotter. The process is essentially the same, although one’s muddier. I make as much iterations as it takes to realise the idea. It always changes en route, but I welcome that kick. It means the idea’s got life.
Spira Mirabilis is the final book in The Wave series. How did it feel to write “The End” to Sofia’s story?
It hurt. I spent so long creating her world, living in it, that leaving it was like a little death.
What’s next? More medieval martial arts epic or are you contemplating a different path?
I’ve been researching a very literary historical novel for a couple of years now. When I began earlier this year I discovered myself writing about space ships and zero G samurai, and enjoying myself immensely. So much for making plans.
Is there something else you’re passionate about other than writing and books?
As a book reviewer, I’m all about the book enabling; I can’t help but want to make people read all the good books out there. But I can always use help. What are your top recommendations of books we should look out for in the coming months?
I’m counting the nights until the final part of The Passage Trilogy by Justin Cronin emerges from the crypt. It’s due sometime this year.
Finally, I have to stay true to my roots and ask a librarian question to finish off with: Do you shelve your books alphabetically, by genre or do you have an ingenious system?
I’ve have been using a Kindle since 1981.
Bio: Aidan Harte was born in Kilkenny, studied sculpture at the Florence Academy of Art and currently works as sculptor in Dublin, where he also lives. Before discovering sculpture, he worked in animation and TV; in 2006 he created and directed the TV show Skunk Fu, which has been shown on Cartoon Network, Kids WB and the BBC.
You can find Aidan online at his website.